FARGO, ND — Illinois State University has announced the hiring of RedHawks second baseman T.J. Bennett as an assistant coach with the school’s baseball program on Tuesday morning.
As the announcement was made, Bennett, 27, announced his retirement from the RedHawks and will play his final game at Newman Outdoor Field on Friday, August 16TH against Sioux Falls.
"I am very thankful for my time here in Fargo. The team, organization, and fans have been amazing.” T.J. said. “This has definitely been the most fun I've ever had playing the game I've loved my whole life. I am very thankful for the support I have received from everybody throughout this process.”
A valuable utility player this year, Bennett has played infield, outfield and catcher and is batting .279 with 76 hits, 18 doubles, 10 home runs and 43 RBI in 72 games. He was one of six RedHawks players named to the 2019 American Association All-Star team.
“As tough as it is to lose a player like T.J. this late in the season, I can’t fault him for taking the job with the Redbirds” said RedHawks general manager Matt Rau. “Not many guys under the age of 30 get the opportunity to coach at a Division 1 (NCAA) level, so this has got to be pretty special for T.J. and we wish him the best.”
The Mesa, AZ native played collegiate baseball at the University of Utah before being signed in 2014 with the Gateway Grizzlies of the Frontier League. In 2016, Bennett was called up to the Sacramento River Cats (SFG-AAA) and continued to play within the Giants organization through the 2018 season.
Bennett was traded to the RedHawks following the 2018 season, but had his contract purchased by the Chicago White Sox. In April of 2019, T.J. signed a free agent contract with the RedHawks, joining his dad, Jim, who was named F-M’s manager in March.
“The opportunity to play for my dad this summer is the most special thing I have ever gotten to be a part of in my career, and I am very confident in the environment he and the players have created this summer.” T.J. said. “While I am looking forward to my new opportunity as a coach, it will be tough to leave this group of guys in the middle of a huge playoff hunt. I will be watching daily and in close contact with the team as they go and do what we have set out to do... win a championship.”
T.J.’s dad and manager, Jim Bennett, who is in his first season with the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks said, “As T.J.’s manager, we are really going to miss him and what he brings to the team on the field and in the clubhouse. Jim continued “As his father, I am truly excited for T.J. and this next chapter in his life as a college coach. He knows the game, loves the game and is always looking for ways to help others. I’m confident that he will bring a lot to the table as a coach and I will be his biggest cheerleader in his new career.”
The younger Bennett will join the rest of the RedHawks on the road for a nine-game road trip that starts in Gary, Ind. tomorrow and continues to Chicago, ending in Milwaukee, before returning home on August 15th for a three-game series against Sioux Falls.
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ANNOUNCEMENT FROM ILLINOIS STATE UNIVERSITY ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT - Lauri Riddell
Redbird Baseball Adds TJ Bennett to Coaching Staff
Illinois State baseball head coach Steve Holm announced the addition of TJ Bennett to the Redbird coaching staff on Tuesday morning. Bennett brings six years of professional baseball experience as an infielder, most recently spending the 2019 season with the independent Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks where he was named an American Association All-Star.
An alum of the University of Utah, Bennett reached Triple-A in the San Francisco Giants organization in both 2016 and 2017, and was named the Giants' Organizational Defensive Player of the Year in 2016.
"I am extremely grateful for this opportunity to begin my coaching career at such a great university," said Bennett. "I have the utmost respect for Steve Holm and am looking forward to learning from and working with him and his staff. I have heard nothing but great things about the young men on this team and am excited to get started working with them. I hope to add to the already positive environment and winning mentality in place with the Redbird baseball program."
The Mesa, Arizona, native has played in several different levels of independent, affiliated, and foreign professional baseball throughout his career, including four seasons with the Brisbane Bandits of the Australian Baseball League. Bennett led the league in home runs during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons and helped the Bandits to four ABL championships during his time abroad.
Bennett began his professional baseball career playing with the Frontier League's Gateway Grizzlies in 2014 and Schaumburg Boomers in 2015. He was signed by the San Francisco Giants in March of 2016 and spent the next two-and-a-half years playing on affiliated minor league teams within the Giants organization, including call-ups to the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats in both 2016 and 2017.
"We are pleased to welcome TJ to the Redbird baseball family," said Coach Holm. "I played for his father in the minor leagues when TJ was a little kid shagging fly balls in the outfield. I have watched him grow as a person and as a player ever since. He has gone on to have a quality career as a player, reaching as high as Triple-A. When he expressed to me that he felt it was time to hang up his spikes and start helping out the next generation of baseball players, I knew we had to add him to our team."
Bennett began his collegiate career at Oral Roberts where he was named All-Summit League second team and a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American during the 2011 campaign. He spent his sophomore season at Mesa Community College, earning all-region honors while posting a .331 batting average over 52 games. He finished his final two seasons at Utah, where he slashed .258 in a combined 94 games played.
For all latest on Illinois State baseball, stay tuned at GoRedbirds.com and follow the team at @RedbirdBaseball (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram).